The Houston Astros reached an agreement with reliever Jesse Crain on a one-year deal, reports Evan Drelich of the Houston Chronicle. Crain, who was traded by the Chicago White Sox to the Tampa Bay Rays at the trade deadline has not pitched since June 29 when a shoulder surgery interrupted an outstanding season.
However, he did pass his physical with the Astros, who believe he is progressing well. While Crain reportedly received two-year offers, he decided to take a one-year deal with the hopes of answering questions about his shoulder and bolstering his stock for the 2014 offseason.
The 32 year-old Crain had a spectacular, if short 2013 season. Over 36.2 innings, the right-hander struck out 30.3 percent of hitters while walking just 7.2 percent. He posted a miniscule 0.74 ERA and 1.52 FIP. Before his injury, his fastball was sitting at 94-95.
Since he broke into the big leagues with the Minnesota Twins in 2004, Crain has been a very good relief pitcher. In addition to his hard fastball, he features a good slider, and he utilized his curve more frequently in 2013 than in years past. In 532 career innings, Crain has a 19.8 percent strikeout rate and a 9.3 percent walk rate.
He’s posted a 3.05 ERA and 3.77 FIP. However, in the past three seasons, since joining the White Sox Crain’s strikeout rate has been above 26 percent each year, and his swinging strike rate has not dipped below 10.8 percent. Both Steamer and Oliver predict Crain will continue to miss bats, as they call for strikeout rates above 25 percent.
Crain is the third reliever the Astros have signed to a major league deal this offseason, with Chad Qualls and Matt Albers being the others. Astros relievers managed a major league-worst 4.92 ERA in 2013, so retooling the pen has been a big focus for General Manager Jeff Luhnow. The acquisition of Crain helps accomplish that goal, and should he perform well, the Astros will likely have the option of flipping him to a contender in need of bullpen help in return for prospects.